It was with a degree of trepidation that I began this read, a curious reason to choose to read the book at all you may think. You see, I had read many glowing reviews and critics praise, so often I find them so over hyped and the opposite to my own conclusions, and also because I enjoy Alan’s skills and abilities as a comedian, panellist and actor across many years and I was intrigued and eager to hear about his history.
Thanks to his “As Yet Untitled” series on Dave and of course QI I had gleaned a few snippets of info, I know Australia featured strongly, that his Mum had died when he was very young, that he had a turbulent relationship with school and so forth, but not the core happenings, the fundamentals that form our foundations. His journey that took him from a child to adulthood, from innocent exploration to working family man.
This memoir is not a chronological diary of life, picking out those highlights or significant events that either helped or hindered his progress through life, interspersed with whimsical anecdotes. This is an honest, touching account from a survivor of life as a sexually abused child. It is phenomenally well written, at no time is Alan portrayed as the hapless, silent victim, but the confused child, struggling to comprehend weighty issues, in an environment of isolation, by which I mean alone within his own family as well as in a crowd.
Reading and understanding how his fathers behaviour towards him across many years affected his every moment through out life was incredibly enlightening. The conflicting emotions and signals, the ‘special secret’ versus being ignored or intentionally reprimanded. The feeling of displacement and disconnection around him. At the core there is this influential figure, a father, the person you have an instinctive affection towards, who is supposed to protect you and teach you about life. Realising the perversions of this authoritative presence and the extent of them and how they still prevailed in his dotage.
It has left scars, fractured the family somewhat, still rearing its ugliness on Alan to this day. Taking the brave step of reporting his father’s behaviour to the authorities must have been such an incredibly hard thing to balance in your own mind, the tugging to and fro with the pros and cons. He has my continued admiration.
It was powerful to read about his misbehaviour, the antics that some may say was attention seeking, maybe it was, maybe not having the nurturing, caring, maternal aspect at home he was seeking it from somewhere else, in some misguided fashion to fit in a place comfortably. All children have phases of tantrums and boundary pushing, it’s a process of learning and growing, but it can also be a red flag to something not being ‘right’ there is more to this behaviour than growing pains. As adults we are incredibly blind to spotting the subtle signals of difference.
I hope Alan has found calmness within himself as his adult life has progressed, getting the support and understanding from his wife, a fresh fun zest in life as his own children grow. That he knows he has value to other people.